The solution of course is nuclear power to extract the oil, but there will still be a large "scar" where the oil shale has been mined. (Open pit I suspect). The answer is that it never has been free, energy will always take some toll on the environment.
But the time for this investment may not be here yet. We could dig in and find that more light sweet crude is available in the Middle East, (because we are being sandbagged) and the price could fall to below $30 and leave investors beholding to the government for the money to run the oil shale plant.
Of course we could and should start on the nuclear power now.
What I'd like to see additionally along these lines is the establishment of a good number of coal-oil facilities. Easy to build, easy to operate and comparatively inexpensive, technology well-known, and produce a nice clean product that's almost #2. Absolutely feasible (if built on/near existing pipe) w/crude at or above $26-27. Less than that, really, if one amortises the start-up cost over, say, 25 years.
Further, coal oil (if we would push it) would have the huge advantage of almost immediately reducing the amount of NG being burnt just to heat. NG should be feedstock, not fuel; it's much more valuable in that role.
The article states: The energy balance is favorable; under a conservative life-cycle analysis, it should yield 3.5 units of energy for every 1 unit used in production.
"Shale oil" isn't even real oil. It's a substance called kerogen, which is an oil precursor. It requires considerable, energy-intensive processing to turn it into usable products, like gasoline, diesel and heating oil. It also has required considerable amounts of water to process, which is in very short supply in the intermountain west, unlike northern Alberta.
The article states: "Product" - about one-third natural gas, two-thirds light crude